1. Communicate about the problem immediately
It doesn’t matter who found out about the problem, or who started working on it first. Your managers will remember who told them about it first.
2. Send regular updates about the status of the problem
It doesn’t matter if you are working on the problem or not. As long as your managers are receiving regular updates, they know you are in control of the situation. Even if you didn’t achieve anything, it is worth sending another update saying that the problem still exists and you are working on it.
Extra tip: use exact “hours:minutes“ extensively, for example, “the service was interrupted at 10:53 and lasted 27 minutes“, or “next status update will be at 16:00″. One more tip: prepare the next status update in advance and schedule it to be sent out automatically at 16:00.
3. Say that you are very worried about this problem
People naturally assume that the most worried folks are those who put the most effort into solving problems.
Furthermore, being worried will keep you safe: nobody is checking if you are doing any real work if they can see that you are genuinely worried.
4. Tell you have ideas how to solve the problem, but that chances are slim
Even if you know your solutions are not going to work, it is worth sharing your ideas, as this shows your initiative and creativity.
It is essential to mention that chances are slim. Once the solutions don’t work out, you prove that your forecasts are accurate.
5. Invite others to suggest solutions
This shows that you are a good team player, open to the ideas of others. You will win in any case:
- if they suggest something that solves the problem, you will take the credit for it (after all, you organised the brainstorm and implemented the idea);
- if they cannot suggest anything or if their ideas don’t work, they won’t be able to blame you when the problem remains unsolved (after all, they couldn’t suggest anything better).
6. Prioritize: is this problem big enough to continue investigation?
Question the priority of the problem. This shows that:
- you are managing your priorities;
- you are busy, which serves as an excuse for slow progress with the problem.
It helps if you have several ongoing problems at the same time, as being busy with all of them serves as an excuse for slow progress with all of them.
7. Turn negative into positive
This is the most interesting part of the process of not solving the problem.
You see, the problem with dealing with problems is that all this process is generally unpleasant, and your managers may start to associate you with unpleasant feelings, which may lead to them starting to avoid you.
You must learn to present any bad situation in a positive light, giving hope and relief to your managers and coworkers.
The best time to do this is right after stopping work on the problem and declaring it as unsolved. Here is what to do:
- Say that the company has learned a lot from this problem, and all the experience has been captured and recorded for future use.
- Mention that you are working on an action plan that will not let problems like this happen in the future.
- Thank everybody who were showing any interest in the problem. Tip: list the names explicitly, as every human being likes to see her name mentioned (it works in any kind of context).
Thank you for reading, and good luck using my advice!
Photo belongs to Martino on Flickr